DUBAI // Residents and tourists are being urged to ditch their cars and use pedal power to get around the emirate.
More than 100 bicycles are now available for hire thanks to a new rental service, similar to those run in European cities.
Bikes can be picked up across Downtown Dubai and Dubai Marina for up to 24 hours, in the first scheme of its kind in the Middle East. It is operated by the German firm NextBike with Dubai-based ByKy and so far 500 people have registered to use it.
“We want to encourage more people to use bicycles to get around and hopefully this system will encourage people to do so,” said Abdullah Abdullghany, general manager of ByKy. “Bicycles are a common sight in cities around the world and we want to see more people use them in Dubai.”
There are 10 bicycle rental stations dotted around Dubai Marina and Downtown Dubai at key locations. They are at The Address Hotel, Souk Al Bahar, Burj Park, Burj Khalifa, Burj Khalifa Metro, Marina Walk, Marina Mall, Marina Yacht Club, Marina Gulf Boat and Marina Dusit.
In all there will be 16 bikes locked at each of the stands. One person can rent up to four with prices from Dh15 for 30 minutes up to Dh80 for 24 hours per bike.
The easiest way to sign up is via the NextBike app available on iPhone and Android.
Users give their mobile phone and credit card details, then get a special identity code number.
To unlock one of the special custom-made bikes customers need only type in their mobile phone number and ID number followed by the individual bicycle number.
Users are also given the code for the manual wheel lock that comes with the bike to allow them to secure the bike to a rail or stand when not in use.
“The app will also tell you where the nearest bike station is and provide you with a route to it if you want to cycle there,” said Miroslaw Dzibas, from NextBike, which operates the system.
“The bikes have baskets on the front so are perfect for using to go to the shops,” he said.
“Users will be able to cycle from one station and drop it off at any of the other stations in the city.”
The service is already popular in Germany, Austria, Turkey and New Zealand.
The bikes are checked on a daily basis to make sure they are in good condition.
The station at Dubai Marina Walk attracted curious looks from passersby.
“I think it’s a brilliant idea,” said Lauren Anderson, who moved from the UK last December. “I don’t have a bike of my own so this is something I will use. Cycling around the Marina is a good way of getting around and saves walking.”
Others thought the system had potential but Dubai needed to become more cycle friendly.
“Compared with cities in Europe it is very difficult to use a bicycle around Dubai,” said Mustafa Mansur, from Egypt.
“I have a bike of my own and use it around where I live in Jebel Ali but you can’t do that in most places in Dubai. But using it around the Marina is fine.”
“I like the fact that you can hire the bike by just typing in your phone and ID number,” said Sanjeet Patel, from India.